28 Iyar 5781 / Monday, May 10, 2021 | Torah Reading: Bamidbar
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The Greedy Cactus    

The Greedy Cactus

Despite all its efforts at self-preservation, the Saguaro cactus can become so top-heavy, that it cannot hold itself up any longer, and it falls to the ground…


Hashem teaches us lessons about life through our surroundings. One with a perceptive eye can find those lessons even within the most mundane activities, such as an ant carrying its leaf back to its underground labyrinth.


While the ant teaches us great lessons about productivity, teamwork, blah, blah, blah, there is another species that teaches us about something just as important: greed.


Traversing Southern California, Southwest Arizona, and Mexico is one of the largest deserts in North America- the Sonoran Desert. It spans over 100,000 miles and has one of the harshest climates on earth. Temperatures reach into the 100's in the summer, and there is occasional snowfall in the winter. Rains in the summer rival monsoons, with violent winds and large cataracts racing throughout the desert, flooding and destroying everything in their path.


This desert is nonetheless a beautiful display of flourishing plant life, despite its extreme conditions. One plant in particular stands out among the rest- the Saguaro cactus. The Saguaro is probably the most well-known species of cactus, as it can reach up to 60 feet tall and weigh around 4,000 pounds. It is synonymous with Southwest North America, and deserves some kind of monetary compensation for being such an iconic figure. Unfortunately for the Saguaro, it is the stubborn, silent type, and has yet to file a lawsuit against the Arizona Office of Tourism.


Stubbornness isn't the main quality of the Saguaro. He has another, more sinister quality, which is the unattractive quality of greed. Cacti are dormant most of the year, and survive on water stored within their branches. During the summer season, the Saguaro can absorb up to 200 gallons of water in one rainfall. Throughout the season, this could amount to thousands of gallons sucked up into its branches.


The Saguaro can live up to 200 years, and have multiple branches. They usually extend upward, as if reaching for the sky.


The Saguaro is also top-heavy (obviously), as the roots are incredibly shallow, given its immense height. They travel no more than several inches into the soil, with the tap root reaching about two to three feet deep. It is quite miraculous that this cactus is able to stand at such a height, considering its weak and unstable foundation.


I know what you're thinking. This is all fascinating and useless information, and you're not going to be tested on it. So why am I giving you a Botany lesson?


Let's get back to my far-reaching conclusion from my expert powers of observation and deduction. In many ways, the Saguaro cactus gives us a lesson on the trait of greed.


As I have previously stated, the Saguaro can absorb tremendous amounts of water during summer rainfall. However, despite all of its efforts at self-preservation, it occasionally meets its doom- the Saguaro can become so top-heavy, that it cannot hold itself up any longer, and it falls to the ground.


Now, class, we shall apply this lesson to our own lives.


Like the Saguaro, we spend most of our lives trying to amass things that benefit us personally. In other words, we are slaves to materialism.


Like the Saguaro, we reach our hands Heavenward, exclaiming, “Give me more! Give me more!” No matter how much we have, it is never enough. We are not satisfied.


Like the Saguaro, we try to stand out among the crowd. We attempt to tower over others with our talents, business sense, or physical beauty. This leads to arrogance and an inflated ego.


Like the Saguaro, we are highly superficial. Our spiritual foundations are extremely weak. As soon as we get a Heaven-sent challenge, we fall down as a result of the burden it places on us.


If we had deeper roots, we would be able to stand tall, and face the challenge with emuna and strength. But, how can we, when we're so busy spending our lives chasing nonsense? How is going on facebook and youtube supposed to help us strengthen our emuna?


How are hours wasted on shopping trips supposed to help us be better humans? When will the money we have ever be enough? How much of our time and money is spent sharing what we have with those less fortunate? Do we even see beyond our self-centered lives?


Let's take this lesson to heart, so we can re-prioritize our lives and live them as God intended for us.



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